Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Explaining why I should have liked Le Labo Iris 39 is much easier than describing why it did not appeal to me. Iris is one of the most fascinating notes in its ability to weave floral and woody elements into a fragrance with wonderful complexity and depth. Although usually incorporated as a supporting note, iris has been increasingly treated as a soliflore. The exciting results of such efforts are beautifully demonstrated by fragrances like Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist and The Different Company Bois d’Iris. Another reason to have high hopes for Iris 39 is that Frank Voelkl, the perfumer who created it, is also the nose behind Three As Four, the delicately orchestrated iris and ginger vignette.
Iris 39 is interesting in that it deviates from the conventional cold iris theme by marrying the hot dryness of patchouli with the metallic chill of orris. The floral accord is accented with orange blossom, the sweetness of which is further amplified by the rich musky base. The juxtaposition of notes is reminiscent of the classical red wine and cheese pairing. Just as the tannic dryness serves as a perfect foil for the milky sweetness, the layer of warm patchouli makes the iris note unfold smoothly. …
However, the interesting aspect of Iris 39 is only a quick glimpse in the course of its development. For the first half an hour, it retains a quality that evokes the word “perfumey”—an amalgamation of indistinct notes with an aldehydic touch. The drydown, on the other hand, is strangely bland after the exciting interplay of notes in the heart. Ultimately, as a composition, it seems more of a sketch than a finished painting.
The fragrances and discovery kits are available directly from Le Labo website, as well as from their store at 223 Elizabeth Street in Nolita (212- 219-2230).
Iris sketch from ruskin.oucs.ox.ac.uk.